Learn from your mistakes, keep the lessons in mind: while this doesn’t necessarily guarantee success, it does, at the very least, help prevent you from failing again. Shakhtar Donetsk, who drew 0-0 with Inter in the Champions League yesterday evening, clearly made a few adjustments following their 5-0 defeat to the Nerazzurri in the Europa League semi-final in August. Castro's team showed up in Kyiv aware of their qualities but also of the errors that they needed to avoid. The first, most important thing they had to focus on was not losing possession in their own half.
It was in that part of the pitch, with an almost surgical level of aggression, that Inter previously stripped away everything the Ukrainians were certain of. At the Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex in Kyiv, Castro’s side were primarily focused on defending their goal: they formed two very narrow lines – defence and midfield – with the team condensed into just 30 metres in order to absorb the Nerazzurri’s attacks.
Inter had to face a thick wall of defence for the whole match, and they spent the entire game trying to find a way around it. Especially in the first half, Conte's team succeeded, producing pieces of play and and displaying ideas that put the Ukrainian rearguard in trouble. Inter had success when they were able to find their wingers behind the opposition full-backs, while Barella and D’Ambrosio’s runs forward also helped disrupt the Shakhtar backline.
Lukaku and Lautaro worked as hard as ever. The statistics are similar to those of the match against Genoa, with Handanovic practically never being called into action as he kept his second clean sheet in a row. Compared to the twelve shots taken by Inter, the Ukrainians only had four attempts at goal, and only one of these was on target.
Inter dominated possession with 59% of the ball against a team whose speedy passing moves tend to pose a real threat. As always, the wide players constantly pushed forward: the Nerazzurri produced 19 crosses (with Young and Hakimi involved throughout).
Marcelo Brozovic also took centre stage, starting many of Inter’s moves. The Croat had 116 touches and made 69 passes in the opposition half. It was his balls forward that often got the Nerazzurri’s forwards involved and helped drive his teammates on.
While Inter were missing a goal, as already mentioned, it wasn’t as if chances were at a premium. Barella, who produced another selfless performance, hit the bar, as did Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian striker had a number of opportunities: a free kick that forced the goalkeeper into a miraculous fingertip save, a close-range header that went inches wide, plus a chance which saw him eventually end up on the floor in the six-yard box.
Inter gave it their all but weren’t rewarded with the prize of a goal and three points. However, the Nerazzurri weren’t lacking in terms of their mentality, the way they took the game to their opponents and their overall performance.